How to Spell Pendulum

By Maeve Maddox

A Facebook comment alerted me to a misspelling of the word pendulum that I’d never seen before. Once I began looking, I found thousands of examples.

I wasn’t too surprised to find the word misspelled in social media, but it did seem strange to see pendulum spelled “pentulum” on sites selling clocks.

Here are a few examples of this misspelling of pendulum:

The pentulum swings. Public opinion will out in the end. (Facebook)

In some countries, [the] political pentulum can swing wildly between opposite extremes. (political blog)

I plan to start researching ideas to re-enter [the market] when the pentulum swings back to oversold. (stockmarket site)

The one-day weight-driven movement has brass and steel gears that swing the pentulum. (clock merchant’s site)

Pendulum is from the Latin adjective pendulus, “hanging down.”

Literally, a pendulum is a weighted rod, cord, or wire suspended from a fixed point. The word is most closely associated with the pendulum that regulates the movement of a clock.

Figuratively, a pendulum is anything that swings back and forth from one extreme to another. For example, one may speak of “the pendulum of public opinion” or “the pendulum of fashion.”

English has several “pend words” that derive from the idea of hanging down or hanging from. See Hanging Words.

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4 Responses to “How to Spell Pendulum”

  • ApK

    I wonder if pentulum is a misspelling influenced by Intel’s popular Pentium processor perhaps? It is a word that people below a certain age would have grown up with.

  • Michael C. Cordell

    With the plethora of automatic spell-checkers out there, one would think misspellings would be virtually nil. Of course, people can add their misspelled words to their dictionary and be none the wiser.

  • venqax

    @ApK: That is a good question. I think it has been well-established that such false equivalencies are where a lot of misspellings and mispronunciations come from: more familiar words that are superficially similar. Sherbert from Herbert, Febyuary from January, dove from drove (okay, maybe not), sacreligious from religious, renumerate from numeral, michevious from other –iouses, revelent from reverent/reveal, nucular from other –ulars, etc. It can be very flusterating.

  • thebluebird11

    Ugh. Pentulum is pathetic. People just don’t read quality literature anymore, don’t see the words with their eyes; they hear whatever they hear and don’t look anything up with reliable sources.

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